(1968/Sony Blu-ray)/Kid Millions
(1934)/Whoopee (1930/Warner Archive
B/C+/C Sound: B/C+/C+ Extras: C+/D/D Films: B/B-/C+
PLEASE NOTE: Whoopee and Kid Millions
are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and
can be ordered from the link below, while Funny
Girl is available everywhere.
with sound, the other thing that eventually made the Musical was color and we
have three of them that offer three different versions of Technicolor that
shows how it helped make the genre even greater.
the end of the reign of Hollywood Musicals, many studios made bad ones trying
to cash in on Fox’s megahit success with The
Sound Of Music (1965), but this led to more misses and big bombs than hits. However, William Wyler had never made a film
in the genre when he helmed Funny Girl
in 1968 and it was the feature film debut of Barbra Streisand, who played the
real life role of Fanny Brice in the hit Broadway stage version. The film was a huge hit permanently cementing
studio status and Streisand’s star continued to climb.
stars with her reflecting on her life at the Ziegfeld Theater, then goes into
flashback for the whole film from her days at home living above the family shop
in a poor section of New York to her big break with Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter
Pidgeon) to finding sudden romance with a businessman (Omar Sharif) to her
unorthodox hit success. “People”, “My Man”, “Don’t Rain On My
Parade” and “Second Hand Rose”
are among the classics she sings and Wyler makes this as much of an effective
drama as he does a fine musical.
backstage musical overall, it subtly deconstructs the genre throughout and
Streisand instantly proves she can carry a film. Save a few missteps, this was the beginning
of her second career (after singing) as one of the top female movie stars of
the era. Kay Medford is convincing as
her mother, one-time Betty Boop Mae Questel and Penny Stanton as family friends,
Anne Francis a best friend and that is Elaine Joyce as a chorus girl. Isobel Lennart turned her own stage book into
the film’s screenplay, Ray Stark (who would later co-own Columbia Pictures for
a time) co-produced the film and future feature film director Herbert Ross did
all the choreography.
It is a
long film at 155 Minutes (this is the roadshow version with an intermission, et
al), but it never feels that way because once it gets started, it just keeps
moving and is effective filmmaking all around with a great cast, some great
chemistry between the actors and it has aged very, very well. Hard to believe Oliver! beat this film for the Best Picture Oscar or that Kubrick’s
2001: A Space Odyssey also missed
that prize in general, but that is how rich the competition was then. Even if you are not a Streisand fan, Funny Girl is a great film musical and
one of the last before the genre was finished.
If you like or live Streisand, you’ll be buying this Blu-ray ASAP.
include trailers for other Sony releases (but none for this film and two vintage
featurettes in standard definition used to sell this film: Barbra In Movieland and This
decades before, when the real Brice was so popular and Ziegfeld was a top show
business name, records and radio for singers and stage performers would be
enhanced by motion pictures and following Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer (1927, see the Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), we
had Eddie Cantor, now best known for showing up as a regular part of the HBO
hit series Boardwalk Empire. He started making films for Paramount, then started working for Samuel
Goldwyn and lately, Warner Bros. has picked up the rights to a huge part of the
Goldwyn catalog. This includes two films
Cantor made with Goldwyn.
smart, Goldwyn was known for writing out big checks to get the projects he
wanted, making him one of the biggest producers of the classic Hollywood period and these two films are no exception.
Freeland’s Whoopee (1930) was an
all-out spectacular musical comedy, especially for its time. Goldwyn co-produced the film with Florenz
Ziegfeld himself, has choreography by the legendary Busby Berkeley and it would
be the only film Goldwyn would ever produce in the then-new two-strip
Technicolor process, but one of the only films of any kind to use the format
for the entire length of the film. Cantor
is a hypochondriac Western Sheriff who confuses everyone including himself
trying to get with a gal he likes and not drive everyone else nuts in the
Cantor in black face to Hollywood
“Indians” and other political incorrectness, this still remains a remarkable
piece of filmmaking, even if it is all over the place and has more moments that
work than actually working in its entirety.
He sings “Making Whoopee” and “My Baby Just Cares For Me” plus Betty
Grable, Paulette Goddard, Virginia Bruce & Ann Sothern can be seen here
dancing as “Goldwyn Girl” before they became named. Even a young Dean Jagger shows up.
to say the film was a big success as Cantor continued to be one of the biggest
names in the business. Thus he reteamed
with Goldwyn and Sothern as his co-star in Roy Del Ruth’s Kid Millions (1934) which is a musical, an early screwball comedy
and even has some fantasy elements. Cantor
is a guy trying to help local kids with little money to have a future by
getting them to play music and even form an orchestra group of sorts (some of
the actors are from the Our Gang/Little Rascals series looking very much
as they did in those shorts including Tommy Bond and Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard)
when he might just be inheriting a fortune from his father who struck it rich
in The Middle East by finding treasure unexpectedly.
dead of course, but he is not totally aware of the situation and an opportunist
(Ethel Merman, whose opening singing number “An Earful Of Music” at a music store in NYC is great) and her male
friend plan to scheme him, but they are not the only ones. Eventually they all have to go to the Middle
East (look out for the politically incorrect Arab characters and Cantor once
again in black face, but the real unexpected howler are dancing gals (non-Arab)
wearing hats with crescent moons on them!
The film is madness and works better than Whoopee because it has a more consistent, coherent narrative. Other songs include “When My Ship Comes In”, “Okay,
Toots” and “Ice Cream Fantasy”.
Kennedy, a master of the slow burn, is among the cast with brother Jack, The
Nicholas Brothers show up very young tap dancing throughout, Goldwyn Girl
Paulette Goddard is joined by an unknown Lucille Ball and Tor Johnson shows up
as a torturer!
sequence (directed by Willy Pogany and lensed by Rat Rennahan) is a great
three-strip Technicolor finale that tops off the film well set in a food
factory and has to be seen to be believed.
It is great and makes up for the flaws of the film. Any serious film fans needs to catch up with
Neither disc offers any extras, though they should have something.
2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Funny Girl is a new 4K HD transfer from the original camera
materials. In its original release, Columbia issued 70mm
blow-up prints as well as 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints
helping it become one of the biggest films of the year and musicals of that
decade. In 2001, it was one of a handful
of lucky films to be reissued in new 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor
in the last year of that revival that started in 1997. Save a few brief shots, the materials were
first generation and this new 4K version is just like those prints.
often terrific and there are plenty of moments where it is very effective, but
there are parts and moments where the color is not as wide-ranging as the real
Technicolor version from 12 years ago.
Otherwise, this looks great and you even get some demo shots for serious
HD and Ultra HD presentation. Director
of Photography Harry Stradling Sr. (Easter
Parade, The Pirate, My Fair Lady, Johnny Guitar, A Streetcar
Named Desire, Auntie Mame, Gypsy) was an expert in color filming
when he took on this project and Streisand was so happy with him that she had
him lens her next three films: Hello,
Dolly! (in Todd-AO 70mm) On A Clear
Day You Can See Forever and The Owl
& The Pussycat. This Blu-ray
looks better than the one for Lady,
but is not as consistent as Gypsy
(both reviewed elsewhere on this site) but since Columbia and Sony have taken
care of the film so well, it looks as good as it is going to (save my minor
color issue) and you can really appreciate the use of the real anamorphic 35mm
Panavision widescreen work done here.
X 1 image on both Cantor films can show their age, but Whoopee has bleeding color that is not always aligned
properly. Its two-strip Technicolor
needs some work here, but there are still some good shots and it had three
cameramen in Lee Garmes, Ray Rennahan and Gregg Toland. Kid
Millions has a pretty good black and white print (shot by DP Ray June) and
the finale in three-strip Technicolor (when you had to shoot three black and
whiter strips at the same time with different color filters versus Funny Girl, where yo9u take color film
and split it into those colors) (lensed by Rennahan as noted above) looks
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.0 lossless mix on Funny Girl is towards the front speakers and is an upgraded mix
further refined from its 2001 Dolby/DTS/SDDS theatrical sound reissue. From its 70mm blow-up prints, this was a film
originally designed for 6-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and
sound effects, but as was the case with the 2001 mix, the dialogue and other
sound is sometimes too much in the center channel as well except when the music
kicks in. The score was recorded
separately (Streisand hated lip-syncing and sings the final song live) from the
rest of the film, so like all musicals up to the 1980s (including Grease in 1978), the fidelity drops to
show the films age when a music number is not happening.
the music is the highlight and sounds great.
The lossless audio shows off just how good Streisand’s early singing was
(see more Streisand elsewhere on this site).
However, there are moments where the sound gets compressed and distorted
in parts and could not be corrected, but this is rare.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on both Cantor films are on an even par, sounding good
for their age with the expected fidelity limits. Merman sounds best between the two films,
To order Whoopee and Kid Millions, go to this link for it and many more great
web-exclusive releases at: